EDA is not going to go away – neither the technology nor the business of the technology is going to cease. If you follow the polemics and pessimism that play themselves out on the Yahoo financials, if you listen to the folks who decry the monopolies of the large players in EDA, or the lack of qualified grad students, or the inability of the industry to look beyond Moore, you might believe the apocalypse is upon us.
But it simply isn’t true.
All you have to do is spend some time with those who drive the technology, those who push the envelope forward day by day – and as much as I would like to believe it’s the academics who do the driving, above the fray and raw fury of commerce – it’s actually those in industry who embrace the optimism of the future. Because, they’re not throwing in the towel. They believe in this stuff. Having achieved greatness in the past, they believe they can accomplish even greater things going forward.
Laying a billion transistors down in a design, etching that design into various layers of modified sand and metal – this stuff is not only cool and unbelievable, it’s supremely stimulating to those involved in its development, drives the global economy, and offers the promise of massive improvements to quality of life for those who occupy that globe.
2009 & The Audacity of Design
We’ve all heard that 2009 will be the year of change, but it will be far more than that. I thoroughly believe that next year, EDA will pick up where it left off a year ago. Surely next year, we’ll get back to obsessing over the technology, and not over the tumult of tanking stock valuations.
I know this to be true because I just returned from edaForum08 in Dresden, Germany. While there, I had the chance to listen and speak with numerous participants in the growing EDA ecosystem developing in Germany, thanks in part to infrastructure investments from the government. Believe it or not, the German government actually knows how to spell EDA, and even more astonishingly, believes it’s important to provide seed funding to foster regional design automation capabilities to support companies that need such tools.
Folks on the panel I moderated in Dresden – Peter van Staa from Robert Bosch, Christoph Heer from Infineon, Thomas Hoetzel from ZMD, and Gerd Teepe from AMD Saxony – emphasized their commitment to obtaining (a significant portion of) their design tools from third-party vendors. Other folks on the panel – Mentor Graphic’s Mark Croft and Synopsys’ Gregor Wiethaler – were equally committed to ongoing collaborations with their customers. It was good news all around for the EDA ecosystem in Germany, and around the world, and should provide additional reason for optimism across the industry.
[To read more about edaForum08, please check out “edaForum08” on EDA Confidential.]
Meanwhile, just as compelling as the sessions in Dresden was a recent phone call with Cadence’s Dave Desharnais. Although an 80-percent decline in CDNS over the last year has captured the attention of those who follow EDA (and the even greater decline in LAVA), Desharnais was totally upbeat. He’s delighted with the latest Cadence tool offering he’s helping to promote and has no doubts the company has a bright future ahead. Who gave him the right to exude optimism? He doesn’t need anybody’s permission. He thinks Cadence still has a role to play in the future of the semiconductor industry, and believes others at the company support him in that optimism.
Add to that, the fact that Tela Innovations just announced an additional round of financing from Cadence, KLA-Tencor’s investment unit, and Qualcomm to the tune of $5.5 million and you’ll see why there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Ergo, I say vote for The Audacity of Optimization and Automation. Vote for 2009 and the Audacity of Design.
Jim Hogan – Optimist and Realist
Before leaving for Europe, I spoke by phone with Jim Hogan. One of the most affable men in EDA, and one of the few ‘household names’ in the industry able to engage in a candid discussion without PR counsel on the call, we had a lively conversation which I thoroughly enjoyed. At my request, Jim reminisced about his early career spent establishing devices physics labs for both National Semiconductor and Philips.
Hogan chuckled: “That was a long time ago! Back in those days, we used to build things overseas and we didn’t have email, so device physics stuff needed to be available locally. I had the good fortune, at a relatively young age, to put labs together around the world for National and Philips. I had the chance to deal with multiple cultures first hand, in Asia and Europe – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Scotland, Germany and Israel.
“Of those places, I spent the most time in Singapore and Malaysia, then Scotland and Munich, plus a year in Japan. Experiencing all of those cultures was a great opportunity for me.”
Hogan laughed and added, “Of course, in those days nobody was flying first class. I think I paid my dues by flying around for years in coach!”
After Philips and National, Hogan did a stint as COO at Smart Machines, where he managed the transition from 200-mm to 300-mm wafers. Hogan said, “When we went to 300-millimeter wafer manufacturing, things were a lot heavier, so we took the humans out of the transport system [on the shop floor]. Also, the 180 and 250 nanometer process geometry production processes were vacuum based, so we had to build transport mechanisms that could bear the weight of 300-millimeter wafers, plus survive 3 million cycles. It was definitely a tough engineering problem!
“To solve it, we built robots in cluster chambers and sold them to KLA and LAM, and they put them into their cluster machines. In fact, that technology is still being used today by Applied Materials. Plus, there’s an additional back story here. Part of [Cadence co-founder] Jim Solomon’s virtual reality effort, Zulu, builds moveable stations on 5 axes to give people more realistic opportunities to experience rides. We were still a ways away from making that functionality viable back in 1998 [when we worked together at Smart Machines], so we decided to go into the robot business for semiconductors instead, which was a natural path for me.”
After Smart Machines, Hogan moved to Cadence where he served in a variety of roles over the years. His favorite? Hogan replied, “Working in the field with the AEs and the customers. Every day, we shared the problems and challenges of pushing the technology on the semiconductor side, with [what was then] less mature software. We worked in real time to get it done, no matter what.
“AEs are really smart guys – they’re not sales guys, they just want to make their customers successful. It’s true they get paid well, but not as well as the sales guys. In my opinion, the best sales guys are actually former AEs. I really don’t want to offend anybody, of course, but the AEs really put their customers first. They’re the ambassadors between the customer and the factory. Working as an AE, or working with the AEs, is a good place to be.”
Hogan described his other roles at Cadence: “Over the years, I was Senior Vice President for Business Development in the office of the CTO, served as a Cadence Executive Fellow – that was a great job! – and then was President of Cadence Japan.”
I had thought the Japanese subsidiaries of EDA companies always picked a Japanese national to head the organization. Hogan agreed, “If you can find someone there to fill the role – yeah, it’s reserved for a Japanese national. But our President of Cadence Japan went on to run SAP in Japan. He was a really smart guy, had gone to Harvard, and was very hard to replace. At the time, I was a Cadence Fellow and [Cadence CEO] Ray Bingham asked me to go to Japan and take over. I was there for about 18 months, off and on, and then for a solid year I was there every other week. At the time, Japan was fully one third of our market, and that’s what it took [to keep things going] until we found someone to replace me.”